Banks that surrender customer files after receiving oral requests from federal authorities are vulnerable to lawsuits, a U.S. appeals court judge has ruled.

In a decision that consolidated two separate cases, Judge Edward E. Carnes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled last month that bank customers may sue First Union National Bank of Florida and BankAtlantic Bancorp. for divulging to investigators information about their accounts.

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